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Chuck Bednarik

Chuck Bednarik
refer to caption
Bednarik c. 1952
No. 60
Position:Linebacker
Center
Personal information
Born:(1925-05-01)May 1, 1925
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died:March 21, 2015(2015-03-21) (aged 89)
Coopersburg, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Height:6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Weight:233 lb (106 kg)
Career information
College:Penn (1945–1948)
NFL draft:1949 / Round: 1 / Pick: 1
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Games played:169
Games started:166
Interceptions:20
Interception yards:268
Fumble recoveries:21
Defensive touchdowns:1
Military career
Allegiance United States
Service/branchU.S. Army Air Forces seal U.S. Army Air Forces
Years of service1942–1946
RankStaff Sergeant
UnitEighth Air Force
Battles/warsWorld War II
Player stats at PFR

Charles Philip Bednarik (May 1, 1925 – March 21, 2015), nicknamed "Concrete Charlie", was an American football linebacker and center who played in the National Football League (NFL). He played college football for the Penn Quakers, and was selected with the first overall pick of the 1949 NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles, where he played his entire 14-year NFL career from 1949 through 1962. Bednarik is ranked one of the hardest hitting tacklers in NFL history,[1] and was one of the league's last two-way players, so he was also known as "60 Minute Man".

On November 20, 1960, Bednarik knocked New York Giants halfback Frank Gifford unconscious with a tackle that has been called "professional football's most notorious concussion" in that time. Today Bednarik's tackle is simply known as "The Hit".[2] He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967, his first year of eligibility.

Early life and education

Bednarik was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on May 1, 1925. Five years earlier, his parents had emigrated from Široké, a village in eastern Slovakia, settling in Bethlehem and working for Bethlehem Steel. He first attended school at SS. Cyril & Methodius, a Slovak parochial school in Bethlehem taught in Slovak. He then attended Liberty High School in Bethlehem, where he played football.

Military service

Following graduation from Liberty High School, Bednarik entered the U.S. Air Force, where he served as a B-24 waist gunner with the Eighth Air Force.

During World War II, Bednarik flew on 30 combat missions over Nazi Germany. He was awarded the Air Medal, four Oak Leaf Clusters, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, and four Battle Stars for his military service.[3]

College

Following World War II, Bednarik attended the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where he was a 60-minute man, excelling as both center and linebacker, and sometimes as a punter.

At Penn, Bednarik was a three-time All-American. Along with two of his teammates on the 1947 Penn team, George Savitsky and tailback Tony Minisi, and his coach, George Munger, Bednarik was voted entry into the College Football Hall of Fame. In 1948, Bednarik placed third in Heisman Trophy voting and won the Maxwell Award that year.[4] In 1969, he was voted by a panel of sportswriters, coaches, and College Football Hall of Fame players as "the greatest center of all-time."

NFL career

Philadelphia Eagles

Bednarik was the first player selected in the 1949 NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles, where he went on to start on both offense as a center and on defense as a linebacker for the Eagles.

Bednarik was a member of two Eagles' NFL Championship teams, in 1949 and again in 1960. In the final play of the 1960 NFL Championship Game, Bednarik was the last Eagles defensive player between the Green Bay Packers' Jim Taylor and the end zone. Bednarik tackled Taylor at the Eagles' eight-yard line, and remained atop Taylor as the final seconds ticked off the clock, ensuring the Packers could not run another play and preserving a 17–13 Eagles victory and the 1960 NFL championship.[5] The controversy surrounding this play led to the NFL putting in a rule penalizing defensive players for not allowing an offensive player to get up off the field.

Gifford hit

On November 20, 1960, in a game between the Eagles and New York Giants at the original Yankee Stadium, Bednarik knocked Giants running back Frank Gifford out of football for over 18 months in one of the most famed tackles in NFL history, often referred to simply as The Hit.[6] Bednarik's clothes line tackle of Gifford dropped Gifford immediately to the ground, and Gifford immediately went unconscious. Gifford was transported from the field on a stretcher and then to a local hospital, where he was diagnosed with a deep concussion.[7]

Bednarik was criticized after the game by Giants players and fans for apparently celebrating Gifford's injury. A Sports Illustrated photo of Bednarik standing over an unconscious Gifford became iconic, showing Bednarik in mid-celebration, right above Gifford as he lay unconscious on the field. Bednarik defended himself by saying that he was celebrating the fumble caused by the hit, which the Eagles recovered and clinched the victory for the Eagles, sending the team to 1960 NFL Championship Game. Years later, Gifford called the hit "a clean shot", and said, "Chuck hit me exactly the way I would have hit him."[8] The play has been called "one of the most iconic plays in NFL history."[9]

Quarrel with Noll

Bednarik had a famous quarrel with Chuck Noll, who as a Cleveland Browns player, had smashed him in the face during a fourth-down punting play. A few years later, Bednarik punched Noll in an on-field confrontation after a game. NFL commissioner Bert Bell subsequently fined Bednarik $500 and ordered him to apologize to Noll for the punch. According to Bednarik, when he gave the apology, Noll simply responded, "Bullshit."

Accomplishments and legacy

Bednarik proved extremely durable, missing just three games in his 14 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles. He was named All-Pro eight times and was the last of the NFL's "Sixty-Minute Men", players who played both offense and defense on a regular basis.

Bednarik's nickname, "Concrete Charlie," originated from his off-season career as a concrete salesman for the Warner Company, not from his reputation as a ferocious tackler. Sportswriter Hugh Brown of The Evening Bulletin in Philadelphia, credited with bestowing Bednarik with the nickname, remarked that Bednarik "is as hard as the concrete he sells."

Bednarik served as an analyst on the HBO program Inside The NFL for its inaugural season in 1977–78.

In 1999, he was ranked number 54 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players, making him the highest-ranking player to have spent his entire career with the Eagles, the highest-ranking offensive center, and the eighth-ranked linebacker in all of professional football.

In 2010, Bednarik was ranked 35th on the NFL Network's "The Top 100: NFL's Greatest Players". Ranked one spot ahead of Bednarik at #34 was Deion Sanders, a player for whom Bednarik had held open contempt in regards to being a two-way player.

NFL career statistics

Legend
Won the NFL championship
Led the league
Bold Career high
Underline Incomplete data

Regular season

Year Team Games Interceptions Fumbles
GP GS Int Yds Y/I Lng TD FR Yds Y/F TD
1949 PHI 10 7 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1950 PHI 12 12 1 9 9.0 9 0 1 0 0.0 0
1951 PHI 12 12 0 0 0 0 2 5 2.5 0
1952 PHI 12 12 2 14 7.0 12 0 1 0 0.0 0
1953 PHI 12 12 6 116 19.3 41 1 4 6 1.5 0
1954 PHI 12 12 1 9 9.0 9 0 4 0 0.0 0
1955 PHI 12 12 1 36 36.0 36 0 0 0 0
1956 PHI 12 12 2 0 0.0 0 0 2 4 2.0 0
1957 PHI 11 11 3 51 17.0 37 0 2 0 0.0 0
1958 PHI 12 12 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.0 0
1959 PHI 12 12 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.0 0
1960 PHI 12 12 2 0 0.0 0 0 2 0 0.0 0
1961 PHI 14 14 2 33 16.5 33 0 0 0 0
1962 PHI 14 14 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.0 0
Career 169 166 20 268 13.4 41 1 21 15 0.7 0

Postseason

Year Team Games
GP GS
1949 PHI 1 0
1960 PHI 1 1
Career 2 1

Opinions on current NFL players

Bednarik was an outspoken, even bitter critic of modern NFL players for playing on only one side of the ball, calling them "pussyfoots", noting that they "suck air after five plays" and that they "couldn't tackle my wife Emma". He even criticized Troy Brown of the New England Patriots and Deion Sanders of the Dallas Cowboys, two players who also have played both offense and defense. Bednarik noted that Brown and Sanders saw time at both wide receiver and cornerback, positions that did not require as much contact as he endured while playing both center and linebacker.[10]

Relationship with the Eagles

Bednarik's former Eagles number, 60, has been retired by the Eagles in honor of his achievements with the team and is one of only nine numbers retired in the history of the franchise.[11]

When the Eagles established their Honor Roll in 1987, Bednarik was one of the first class of inductees. He attended reunions for the 25th anniversary of the 1960 NFL Championship team in 1985 and the 40th anniversary of the 1948–49 NFL Championship team in 1988 (though he had not played for the 1948 team), held in pregame ceremonies at Veterans Stadium.

Bednarik quarreled with current Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie in 1996. Lurie refused to buy 100 copies of Bednarik's new book for $15 each for the entire team, as that was against NFL rules, and that grudge carried over into the Eagles' Super Bowl appearance in 2005, when he openly rooted against his former team.[12][13] He was a consistent critic of several league issues, including his pension, today's salaries, and one-way players.

During Eagles training camp in the summer of 2006, Bednarik and the Eagles reconciled, seemingly ending the feud between Bednarik and Lurie. At the same time, however, Bednarik made disparaging remarks regarding Reggie White, leading to a somewhat lukewarm reception of the reconciliation by Eagles' fans. In the edition of August 4 of Allentown's Morning Call newspaper, however, it was reported that Bednarik apologized, stating he had been confused, and meant to make the statement about former Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens.[14]

Death

Bednarik died at 4:23 a.m. on March 21, 2015, in Coopersburg, Pennsylvania, after having fallen ill the previous day. He was 89.[15] Although the Philadelphia Eagles released a statement saying he died after a "brief illness", Bednarik's eldest daughter, Charlene Thomas, disputed that claim, saying he had Alzheimer's disease and had been suffering from dementia for years and that football-related injuries played a role in his decline.[16]

See also

References

  1. ^ "Hardest Hitters in NFL History," Sports Illustrated, July 25, 2007
  2. ^ Anderson, Dave (November 11, 2010). "Chuck Bednarik's Hit on Frank Gifford Still Echoes". New York Times.
  3. ^ "Football and America: World War II," Professional Football Hall of Fame.
  4. ^ Chuck Bednarik at the College Football Hall of Fame
  5. ^ Longman, Jere (January 6, 2011). "Eagles' 1960 Victory Was an N.F.L. Turning Point". The New York Times. Retrieved January 6, 2011.
  6. ^ Fox Sports. "Chuck Bednarik's legendary hit on Frank Gifford". FOX Sports. Retrieved March 21, 2015.
  7. ^ "Facts and fiction behind Chuck Bednarik's hit on wide receiver Frank Gifford," Sportscasting
  8. ^ Anderson, Dave (November 11, 2010). "Chuck Bednarik's Hit on Frank Gifford Still Echoes". New York Times.
  9. ^ "Chuck Bednark: As tough as they come", The Denver Post, August 31, 2014, retrieved May 2, 2024
  10. ^ Bowen, Les (no date). Philadelphia Eagles, (MVP Books; ISBN 1610597427), pp. 36-37.
  11. ^ Chuck Bednarik career highlights, Pro Football Hall of Fame
  12. ^ "Bednarik still angry over 1996 meeting - NFL - ESPN". ESPN.com. February 5, 2005. Retrieved March 21, 2015.
  13. ^ "Bednarik is rooting against the Eagles - The San Diego Union-Tribune". utsandiego.com. Retrieved March 21, 2015.
  14. ^ Jones, Gordie (August 4, 2006). "Bednarik: I meant T.O., not Reggie". The Morning Call. Retrieved March 17, 2019.
  15. ^ "Eagles Legend Chuck Bednarik Passes At Age 89". cbslocal.com. March 21, 2015. Retrieved March 21, 2015.
  16. ^ Olanoff, Lynn (March 21, 2015). "Chuck Bednarik's daughter: Football-related injuries led to dementia and death". The Express-Times.
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Chuck Bednarik
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